New Year, New Way to Find Happiness Wherever You Are

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Depression Survivor Expands Lifesaving Social Media Project to New Website, IChooseBeauty.org

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After only a week, I noticed a difference – I started to feel hopeful... So much so that I didn’t stop when winter was over. I kept going. I'm on Day 768 now.

A new website aims to be a healing haven for those struggling with depression. IChooseBeauty.org offers users interactive challenges based on positive psychology techniques, free inspirational prints and community support.

Depression survivor, Sahar Aker, launched IChooseBeauty.org to publicly share some of the lifesaving techniques that helped her to recover. The site features daily uplifting images, inspiring quotes and guided challenges to help people recognize beauty in their lives. It is an expansion of Aker's popular social media project, #IChooseBeauty which started in November 2013 during her treatment for severe depression.

"My therapist suggested I try to focus on something of beauty every day to help me get through winter, an especially difficult time for me," says Aker. "I’m a very visual person, so I decided I would document pictures of the beauty I saw on Instagram using the hashtag #IChooseBeauty to keep all my images in one place."

Depression affects about 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older per year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Positive psychology researchers have found people who notice and appreciate beauty are more likely to find joy and meaning in everyday life. And are more likely to feel positive and grateful.

"After only a week, I noticed a difference – I started to feel hopeful. Days went by, and I was hooked. So much so that I didn’t stop when winter was over. I kept going. I'm on Day 768 now."

Taking a picture every day for two years has helped Aker to notice all the little things in life— whether it’s a flower, the clouds or a good hot cup of tea. She started to notice beauty she had once overlooked. Beauty she couldn't see when she was in the depths of her recent episode of severe depression.

"I woke up one morning and found myself curled up at the bottom of a deep dark hole where I could barely breathe, wondering what happened. Wondering how I got here. And not really caring if I ever saw light again," recalls Aker.

#IChooseBeauty has been Aker's life preserver — her proof that happiness is right in front of us, all around us. We just have to choose to see it. Since starting her project, many people going through a tough time have let her know how much her images and words have inspired them. Some have even joined her in using the hashtag #IChooseBeauty, which now has nearly 2,000 posts on Instagram.

“People who had been suffering in silence reached out to me in solidarity. I realized that more needs to be done to openly talk about depression and to help others heal. IChooseBeauty.org expands my platform to do that.” says Aker.

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Sahar Aker
@SaharAker
since: 07/2008
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